Maurizio Ferrarese, after all, is one of the best Italian chefs in the state, and one of the best chefs in the city, in my opinion. Heading up the kitchen at Quattro for since the summer of 2010, he lead a kitchen that served approachable, refined contemporary, broadly northern Italian fare while also satisfying the more mundane, meat-centric palates of the typical middle-brow, middle-aged business traveler. It was all executed with copious skill, top-notch ingredients. Maybe it was not overly ambitious with items like potato gnocchi with roasted shrimp and bacon, agnolotti with beef and black truffle, and seared ahi tuna, but I always found it very satisfying.
Especially so, was a dinner that he cooked for my dinner group a few summers ago in their kitchen dining room. I asked him to create a menu of items from his home area for a dozen of us, which he did magnificently. It was an updated, upscale restaurant chef’s version of a homey meal, more refined, more attractively presented and likely much tastier. It began with four small appetizers that each worked very well: tuna with a bit of mayonnaise like a veal tonnato, steak tartare, and a cured white fish, plated for each diner. Then was the primo course, with two versions of risotto, one with fried frog legs – frogs are a popular protein with the risotto near the expansive rice fields of Vercelli where Ferrarese is from – and another with fontina and mushrooms. Both were excellent. The main course was a modern meat-oriented fritto misto, with several expertly fried items placed charmingly on butcher paper atop their near descriptions. The dinner was excellent throughout, and a lot of fun, with help from Ferrarese.
To note, as it was during the last risotto festival, Ferrarese’s risotto, featuring cauliflower, one of my least favorite vegetables, was nonetheless the best risotto of day, with the rice cooked to a toothsome consistency that highlighted the individual grains, and in contrast to most, which were overcooked and a bit mushy. I look forward to Ferrarese returning to a Houston restaurant kitchen sooner than later, to eat perfectly cooked risotto and a lot more.
A contemporary and delicious take on fritto misto at Quattro a few years ago.